Finally, Bruce Bochy earns his salary. Finally, the Giants walk among the biggest of the big kids. Finally, they can spend to-to-quarter with the Los Angeles Dodgers and flip off the poorer teams with both hands, and maybe even both feet if they’re spry enough – all because "Forbes Magazine" says so.
And hey, who knows money than people who write about people with money?
The facetious meter is well in the red here, but facts are facts, and lists are lists, and one becomes the other very quickly. And this list, Forbes’ 2015 Major League Baseball valuations, says that the Giants doubled in value last year to $2 billion.
Doubled. In one year. That means Bochy managing a third World Series is scandalously underpaid. That means Brian Sabean’s tire-kicking fetish is shamelfully underrewarded. And it sure as hell means that Madison Bumgarner pitching every other day is the new market inefficiency, and the numbers are there to prove it.
But it also means one other thing. The Giants are now only $300 million less valuable than the Dodgers, or half a Tampa Bay Ray.
Sounds to me like happy days are here again, and they can start coveting Mike Trout and trading for Giancarlo Stanton and wooing Clayton Kershaw with the joys of SOMA.
In fact, what it actually means is that the Giants’ shareholders are getting spectacularly fat off their investment. The team has risen in value by nearly $100 million every year since Bob Lurie sold it in 1992, and between winning and the ballpark and slapping a marketer on everything they sell and selling every marketer they have, the Giants are bigshots.
Then you realize three things:
One, the Giants, like every other team, decry Forbes’ numbers as voodoo hoodoo, based on bubbles and myths and unicorns wrapped in fairy dust. This usually means that the teams’ real worth is probably far greater than listed, because nobody who has sold a team in the recent past has done anything but spectacularly exceed the Forbes number.
Two, they’ve always been able to spend as they see fit, and their payroll numbers show that. The only real impact here is that when asked every year what his budget is, Sabean should honestly say, “Hundreds of millions more than what they tell me it is.”
And three, the Giants aren’t really big shots in the halls of Major League Baseball, because principal owner Charlie Johnson doesn’t make himself a conspicuous power broker among the other owners. That’s how you get real power in this or any other sport – by attaching yourself to the other powers and making your wallet thud on the table for effect.
All that said, two billion scoots, kids. Four hundred million more than the 49ers, $700 million more than the Warriors, $1.03 billion more than the Raiders, $1.25B more than the A’s, $1.575B more than the Sharks, and $1.9B more than the Earthquakes.
Why, only $77.2 billion more, and Buster Posey can put his feet up on Bill and Melinda Gates.
What this number means practically is that the Giants can act like the Yankees and Dodgers, but that they won’t. They have done a disappointing but intelligent thing by managing its payroll growth conservatively – disappointing, because every time Sabean says “We’re not in the market for an outfielder,” the fan base weeps because people love to see the dry-roasting of other people’s money, and intelligently because this winning the World Series every other year isn’t bound to last. I mean, it could, but it never has before, so betting on it to happen here is probably bad value.
What it does do, though, is remind us all the next time the Giants jack up prices, or ask for some city easement for some growth project, that they don’t need the money to stay afloat. Hell, when it comes to staying afloat, they’re already the Navy Department.
And while we’re at it, it also reminds us that every other team is in the same fleet. The A’s rose by nearly 50 percent in the last year, to $725 million, merely by failing to fold. They still have no new stadium in Oakland, the stadium they did want in San Jose will never happen, and they seem perpetually grumpy about playing where they are playing now.
And yet, John Fisher and Lew Wolff and Mike Crowley and Billy Beane hold their shares tightly and proudly – because every year their ship comes in, just like every other team in every other sport.
Well, actually, that’s not true. The Florida Panthers dropped by six percent the last time Forbes did its numbers on the NHL. But every other team is worth more than the last time Forbes checked, most of it in the metric tons. The Giants are the second team to jump in value by a billion dollars, the other being the Dallas Cowboys from 2013 to 2014.
So here’s to the Giants. They may still need a right-handed hitter and another starter, and maybe an extra outfielder or two, but at least they’re not late on the mortgage.
That is, unless they have plans to rent out France for the next investors meeting.